On 'fire' at the fair: Rabenbergs show off ribbon-winning fire pits
WORTHINGTON — The Nobles County Open Class exhibits always showcase a variety of projects from around the county. This year, two metal objects entered by first-time fine arts competitors are drawing curious stares and lots of questions.
The two fire pits, built from used propane tanks, both sport purple ribbons and were entered by Merle Rabenberg and his daughter, Beth Rabenberg of Wilmont.
Merle explained that they first stumbled upon the idea for the fire pits on the Internet.
“We found them on Facebook,” he said. “Once I saw them, I knew exactly what they were made of because I work in the propane industry.”
Using a plasma cutter, Merle began experimenting with different designs.
“We tried a lot of different things,” he said. “We did a test burn on each of them first. One wasn’t quite right, so we needed to cut out more holes. The second one was perfect the first time.”
While Merle figured out the technical aspects of the project, Beth designed the scenes depicted on each one.
The woodland scene was a compilation of other fire pits the Rabenbergs saw online. The Halloween fire pit started with a Disney scene, but changed as the design progressed.
“On the Halloween one, I looked at different silhouettes of Disney villains and started to draw it out,” Beth explained. “The house wasn’t supposed to be there, but I had so much room left.”
A graduate of St. Cloud State University, Beth recently accepted a position as an English teacher at Worthington High School.
“When I went to school here, I loved being in Mrs. Holinka’s art class,” she said. “She just let us run with things and try new things. When I was in college, we were required to take an art class, and I had a lot of fun with that, so it’s something I’ve done my whole life.”
With thick steel sides, Merle anticipates the fire pits will last a long time.
“They are made of a quarter inch of steel,” he said. “They are going to be around for a while. If a family has one, they will hand it down to the next generation.”
The Rabenbergs have already had other people express interest in the fire pits and are planning on creating more to sell.
“I have a couple orders already for farmers that have century farms and want a special design on them,” Merle said.
Diane, Merle’s wife and Beth’s mother, works at Avera Medical Group Worthington and has been supportive of the project. In fact, she likes the fire pits so much, she doesn’t want them to be sold.
“She wants us to just keep them,” Merle said with a laugh. “I keep telling her, the more you do, the better you get.”
Receiving purple ribbon recognition for their efforts certainly feels good, but it wasn’t the reason the Rabenbergs decided to create the fire pits.
“I build a lot of stuff,” Merle said. “If people enjoy it, that’s the perk. I like building stuff that is going to last a long time.”
For more information about the fire pits, contact Merle Rabenberg at (507) 926-5463.
Daily Globe Reporter Alyson Buschena may be reached at 376-7322.